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Blue Jeans And A Badge
By Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2005 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneApril Pinon Lake, New Mexico
This was almost too easy.
Peering through the chilly April New Mexico darkness, Luce Montgomery watched with satisfaction as the silhouette of a man emerged from the Tafota Salvage and Engine Repair Shop office in Pinon Lake, and glanced around before closing the door quietly behind him.
"Gotcha," she whispered, flipped her ponytail behind her shoulder and fingered the Walther holstered at her hip. Why did they always go home? "Clyde, my man, you're toast."
It was all good. She pushed off the carcass of the burned-out '79 Chevy she'd been leaning against and prepared to confront her quarry. Their stupidity made her job easier.
Clyde Tafota had been a very bad boy. He'd jumped bail. Though no one could figure out exactly why. He'd been involved in a cousin's drug buy while on a visit to St. Louis during which two dealers were killed, but SLPD forensics had recently nailed down who did it - and it wasn't Clyde. He was sure to be exonerated for the murders. So why had he run?
Luce didn't care. Her job was to bring him back to St. Louis, period, for which she would be paid a nice chunk of change. Twenty percent of thirty-five grand, to be exact.
Illuminated by the bare bulb burning over the silent repair shop door, the man turned and quickly walked toward the yard where a black Jeep was parked in the driveway. She could see there was something in his hand, but it looked like paper, not a weapon.
Luce stepped out from the shadows, drawing her semi-automatic. "Stop right there, Clyde. You're -"
Tafota looked up in surprise, and the paper flew out of his hand, skittering away on a breeze.
"Damn it!" he exclaimed, and took off after it, completely ignoring her.
With a single, succinct curse, she holstered the Walther and started to sprint, launching herself at him in a running dive just as he caught the paper.
They hit the dirt in a tangle of limbs, him with a loud "oof" and she with an expert roll so she landed sitting on his back, her gun once more out and pointed at his neck.
"I wouldn't recommend trying that again, sport," she drawled.
She really hated it when they ran.
"What the hell -" Clyde sounded mad.
Tough. "Like I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted -" She moved her knee off a sharp rock and shifted back a few inches so she ended up straddling his butt ... and was momentarily distracted by how nice he felt under her. His backside was firm, his thighs hard and muscular. She frowned. Tafota's file had said he was an older guy, sixtyish, and in his mug shot he appeared downright skinny.
Her musings were interrupted when Clyde tried to turn over.
"Don't move. You're under arrest."
"Really," he said as she grabbed his arms and twisted them up behind his neck.
"Yeah, really. And I'll take that." She plucked the paper he was holding and stuck it in her windbreaker pocket, then snapped her handcuffs onto his wrists below his jeans jacket sleeves.
"Don't lose that," he admonished, but didn't resist being restrained. They usually didn't. Fleeing justice was an act of desperation an offender rarely thought would actually keep him out of jail. As a rule they came pretty quietly in the end.
"I won't, Mr. Tafota. Now, if you'll just -"
A low, rumbling chuckle interrupted her. "Tafota? I'm not Clyde. I'm -"
"Sure you're not," she went along good-humoredly.
"That's why you were sneaking out of Clyde's office in the middle of the night. Because you're not Clyde."
"Check my ID," he calmly suggested.
"I intend to." That was always one of her first moves after cuffing a suspect. Wouldn't do to get the wrong guy. But so far she'd never been wrong; she did her homework.
She pulled Clyde's arrest sheet and a flashlight from her windbreaker and illuminated his mug shot. He looked just like she remembered. Unfortunately, this guy's face was still in the dirt, impossible to see in the dark.
"It's in my pocket."
"What is?" She shone the flashlight at the side of his face that showed. Shortish black hair and a well-shaped ear. Inconclusive.
"My ID. It's in my pocket."
That might be easier than having him turn over. "All right. Hold still."
She scooted back a smidgen and ran a hand over his jeans pockets, feeling for his wallet. But the only thing she felt was his tight male derriere. She felt again for good measure - for the wallet - trying not to enjoy it.
After a moment he cleared his throat. "Um, my front pocket."
She lifted her hand and squeezed her eyes shut for a second. "Very funny, Clyde. I'm going to lift up and I want you to turn over. Slowly. Remember I have a gun."
"So do I," he said, and she swore she saw a flash of white teeth as he followed her instructions.
She almost groaned out loud. Hell. What was she thinking? Not searching first thing for weapons was a real rookie mistake. And she'd been in the bounty-hunting business for eight years, more than long enough to know better. This guy's butt must really have scrambled her brains.
She shook her head to clear it and ordered herself to focus. She found his weapon tucked in a shoulder holster under his jacket. A Beretta .38. Which struck her as vaguely odd, since that was the kind of gun cops carried, not druggies or engine-repair-shop owners. She relieved him of it.
"Do I get a receipt for that?"
"A real comedian," she muttered, and reached for his front pants pocket. "I'm getting your ID."
That pocket was empty, so she switched hands and stuck her fingers into the other one.
He squirmed. And her fingers brushed against something that was definitely not a wallet.
Her mouth dropped open. "Are you enjoying yourself, sport?" she asked dryly.
She felt him shrug. "It's not every day a man gets to lie on his back with a beautiful woman sitting on his lap." His voice was strong and smooth, like a shot of good bourbon.
An involuntary shiver sifted through her body at the sound of it. She scowled. Attraction to a voice? That had never happened before. Especially with a skip.
"I am not beautiful," she snapped. "And if this turns you on, you are one sick puppy."
"Hey, I'm the one in handcuffs here, and you're the one with your hand in my pocket," the soft, gravelly voice pointed out.
She snatched her hand back and counted to ten. This recovery was not going at all as she'd planned.
"ID's in my shirt pocket, by the way."
She should know by now that when things seemed too easy, it was usually because fate was about to kick you in the -
No. She was not thinking about that particular bit of anatomy.
"Get it for me," she ground out. "Now."
"Yes, ma'am." He lifted his head and brought his cuffed hands around to his front pocket, pulled out a thin wallet and handed it to her. "I just gotta warn you ..."
"Yeah?" she asked, flipping it open.
"I'm, uh -"
"A cop?" she blurted out, staring incredulously at the badge and credentials revealed in the beam of her flashlight.
"You're a damn cop?"
Excerpted from Blue Jeans And A Badge by Nina Bruhns Copyright © 2005 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
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